The artist, Dawn Adams. Photo by Martin Boling


Swirls of sepia and violet underpainting flow over a large square canvas in painter Dawn Adams’ studio. With a palette of transparent oils, she gradually forms the image of a shallow pool, washing translucent and opaque layers over one another. She adds texturized glazes, creating a surface of deceptive depths. “You can see into the painting—like water,” she explains.

Adams specializes in water imagery: fresh, salt, still, rippling, melting, frozen. She prefers large formats. Most works are 3 feet by 4 feet, but she has created several 4-foot-by-8-foot diptychs.

Born in Virginia, the 61-year-old artist grew up in North Carolina and came to Indiana to attend school, first at DePauw University in Greencastle for a bachelor’s degree, then, in 1979, to Indiana University for an M.F.A. in painting. Her art took another direction when she met her future husband, Dale Steffey, while working at Trilogy Gallery in Nashville, Indiana. The couple enjoyed a successful 30-year collaboration as glass artists. “Dale did the glass cutting and fired the kiln, and I did the designing, for the most part,” Adams explains. Her studio still holds many examples of their glass art.

Everything changed in 2007 with the death of their son, Wade, when he was a freshman at Purdue. “Dale lost interest in making things,” says Adams. “He needed something to occupy his brain.” He’s now a book dealer and the owner of Dale Steffey Books.

Adams returned to her painting roots, focusing on water because the paintings could be both representational and abstract. “Water changes things,” she notes. “Reflections, sparkling water, the light going through. You can hardly believe it exists in reality, it’s so magical.” 

The paintings are never dark and stormy. “I want my art to help people feel better and be healthy,” Adams says. “I want the work to be soothing.”

The Venue Fine Art & Gifts sells prints of her work, and By Hand Gallery carries her greeting cards. Original art and prints are available on her website,

Check out this gallery of Adam’s paintings.